In a final round of primaries before the November mid-terms, several non-establishment conservative candidates won again. This narrative has been going on for months now across the country, but last night in one GOP primary, the anti-establishment fervor may have cost the Republicans a winnable seat in Delaware and a majority in the Senate.
Last night, Christine O’Donnell defeated Mike Castle, former Governor, Lt. Governor, and 17 year Congressman in the GOP primary. Mike Castle was supported by popular NJ Governor Chris Christie, and numerous intellectual Republican commentators such as, Michael Medved, Charles Krauthammer, Joe Scarborough and Karl Rove. Christine O’Donnell, the relatively unknown outsider was being advocated strongly by some of the stronger conservative pundits in the business; Sarah Palin, Michele Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. No one would argue that all of the people mentioned have contributed to conservatism. But the short-sightedness of the populus punditry has created a huge fundamental gap in the strategy of the Republican Party. Rove and Hannity debated this divide last night – two guys who rarely disagree, but have two different opinions on which candidates strengthen the party.
This fundamental gap is not between what is right and wrong, it’s about governance and fielding strong local candidates. I can accuse Palin and Limbaugh of using candidates to further their own name-value. While I think it’s true, that’s not the point. The tea party-backed candidates that are winning primaries or fighting against established candidates in moderate districts are chipping away and weakening what should be a golden opportunity to win back both chambers of Congress. The national conservative pundits that push a strong agenda do not take into account the local issues that affect each race.
While I don’t believe, Rush, Levin, Hannity, etc…are “Leaders of the Republican Party” like David Plouffe and the Obama administration like to contend, they are vocal leaders of conservatives with influence over millions of voters. Their influence in a race can be felt. Look at last year’s congressional race in NY-23, when the moderate Republican candidate was beat out by the tea-party candidate Doug Hoffman. They got their candidate in, but it cost them the general election because the guy was unelectable (Hoffman also lost a primary last night). The voting base for a primary can not be compared to the voting electorate in a general election. The purpose of a primary should be to nominate the most electable candidate with comparable values to the seat, not necessarily the most conservative.
So now what happens in Delaware? Well, the national pundits get to spout victory today. Meanwhile, a race that was leaning 12 points to Castle and the Democrats had conceded, now is a 10 point lead for Coons, the Democrat, against O’Donnell. O’Donnell reportedly only has $20,000 in her campaign — hopefully those same pundits can use their network to spruce up that campaign funding. The NRSC has back-tracked on initial reports and said they would support her candidacy, but it will be interesting to see who comes out publicly to help campaign other than Jim DeMint. Reporters will start to dig up things about her past such as Maddow did last night, to reflect her negatively. All homework that typically the RNC would do if they had backed her, but not one of these pundits has done so far. And while it certainly is not impossible that O’Donnell can comeback to win, the chances of winning a moderate state such as Delaware, and of the Republicans taking over the Senate are less likely. Statistics on FiveThirtyEight.com lower the chances from 30% to 21% (if Ovide Lamontagne pulls off a too-close-to-call race in New Hampshire, it lowers to 16%) of a Republican takeover of the Senate.
There is a strong counter-argument to my opinion that I understand. It’s based on not backing down from your principles regardless of the political outcome. Not compromising your beliefs that conservative principles are superior and unyielding. But the question is what is more important; unwavering far right conservatism or a governing majority that can set the agenda in Washington D.C.? It is my opinion the short-sightedness of unwavering support could cost the Republicans one chamber of Congress this November which is far more important than winning a primary and flexing your muscles in a race that would have been a foregone conclusion for the Right.
Often it is rightly pointed out that this nation is a center-right nation. Fielding candidates such as O’Donnell is steering the Republican Party out of ‘right to center-right’ and into ‘far right to right’. Eventually I feel this will have the same negative reaction as the Democrats got as they over-reached their mandate and tried to govern from the ‘left to far left’. If you ignore the center, the nation will at some point turn against you. We are a conservative country. But part of being conservative is understanding the world we live in, when to push for stronger conservative values, and when to compromise and be moderate. The national pundits need to stop fighting these meaningless battles to prove minor superiority in primaries and instead focus on the never-ending war between conservative and liberal governance.